A World Book Trail on World Book Day!

 

Happy World Book day everyone! After the excitement of the Book Oscars and the Read Regional this week, we just had to do a world book trail on World Book Day

And this is the book – a travel memoir with a difference –

IMG_1905

 

There are three different ones in three different countries – Spain, Japan and the Ukraine

So, do you fancy a trip around the world on World Book Day? The booktrail did!

the trail in Spain
the trail in Spain

Camino de Santiago in Spain

 

This was the most interesting one since it brought back many memories of my own backpacking and walking days. The etiquette of talking to other walkers of finding out their own reasons for walking such a route is as fascinating to the writer as it was to read about –

 

The major etiquette point on route is the phrase ‘Buen Camino’. It’s a salutation and a valediction, but its most important role is in establishing boundaries.’

We get buen camino’d with some frequency

 

I smiled at the latter quote – Buen Camino translates as ‘ Enjoy your walk’ ‘Have a good journey’ and is a nicer phrase than our English ‘ Hello’ that we tend to say to passing hikers. It’s nice to talk to people on your journey and wonder why they are doing it – are they there for the same reasons as you?

The Santiago de Camino is a very famous religious pilgrimage of tracing the route of an old roman road in Spain. This is perhaps the most traditional of the writer’s pilgrimages – he is accompanied by a friend and meets many people along the way which makes for some interesting observations –

If Catholics see the reward for arrival as full plenary indulgence, ‘The rest of us are cagey about what to expect. But almost every pilgrim we meet over the next thirty-nine days admits to some feeling, however muted or vague, of transition or crisis.

 

The scenery is vividly described –

 

The path is cut between the bald foothills of the Pyrenees on our right and some lowland pastures on our left.

Blue and yellow scallop-shell waymarkers…

 

In this sense, Spain’s Santiago pilgrimage is seen as moving in a straight line and getting on with the future –  the devout walker wants to get-out-of-purgatory.

And the booktrail was especially happy to read that the author and his friend were actually on their very own book trail and not just for the book they would later write. As Tom lies injured, he finds out about the medical practices described in a certain book –

 

Tom’s been rereading Homage to Catalonia and he finds the archaism appealing, but the medic insists that it will only result in infection.

 

I wanted to linger on this route, but we were off to Japan next….

 

Shikoku, Japan

The temples of the trail in Japan
Just some of the temples of the trail in Japan

 

The second is to 88 temples around the perimeter of Japan – a circle of discovery if you will.

At the gate of one of the temples –

 

Beyond the gate there’s a little spring under a roof with long-handled tin ladles for ritual hand washing….and tied in ribbons are pieces of green paper. These are  fortunes…

 

The trip around 88 temples sees the author visiting a world that not many of us have or will have the pleasure of visiting. I wish we could have spent more time looking and appreciating them as I didn’t think the author did sometimes but there is the little gems that he tells us about such as the Japanese tale of an old beggar and Temple 12 – Shozanji was a particularly nice travel anecdote.

Once again his travelling companion is reading a book to help him experience even more of where he is – by reading on location so to speak –

 

Max reads a book about Japanese Buddhism…

 

This part of the trail was fascinating if not for the exotic environment the author found himself in and the sheer challenge of attempting to visit so much Japanese heritage. Quite a remarkable journey to do no doubt.

Sorry but we have to leave it there although there is so much to read and experience here for yourself.

Next on the trails – Ukraine!

The route in Ukraine
The route in Ukraine

 

Ukraine 

 

This is a journey done for the celebration of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, where he is accompanied by his father and brother. Uman sits on the Kiev Odessa route –

It was already clear, if only by the costumes, that the journey to Uman was much closer to the medieval side of the pilgrimage spectrum than the contemporary one.

It is a story about Jewish persecution and is not a story I knew much about. The Jews take this trip in order to celebrate Rosh Hashanah at the grave of Rav Nachman of Breslov, the founding of the Breslov Hasidic movement of the Jewish faith. The history of what happened in the Ukraine to the Jews is not one really covered here but a quick Google search will tell you the raw shocking facts.

It has been said to remind many a reader of Eat Pray Love but this one is more inward looking and sometimes to the detriment to the flow of his travels. Yet he takes us around three fascinating places, ever searching for his sense of direction.

It has definitely made me want to go to these places myself.

Book Advent – day 23 – Booktrail top ten

IMG_0797

This year we have read some fantastic books and been to some fantastic places so here is our top ten in no particular order to inspire you to travel – via your armchair this Christmas season –

Bamburgh, Northumberland
Bamburgh, Northumberland
A journey through Cuba
A train journey through Cuba
Paris, France
The mysterious backstreets of Paris, France

 

To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
To the dark streets of Edinburgh, Scotland
The Garden of Evening Mists
The Garden of Evening Mists in Malaysia

 

experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
experience the personal story of a small girl in Africa
Experience the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona
Step inside the cemetery of forgotten books in Barcelona –  in Shadow of the Wind
Explore the mystery of Keswick and it surroundings in Island of Bones
Explore the mystery of Keswick and its surroundings in Island of Bones

 

The amusing goings on in a small village in India
The amusing goings on in a small village in Pakistan. Get a cultural insight and make great friends

 

Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller
Protect yourself from the Canadian chill in Ottawa with a cracking crime thriller

So, there you have it, our top ten books this year. We’d love to hear yours and we do actually have loads more except we couldnt fit them all in. How do you pick only ten? Well based on location and atmosphere, these ten really did pack some punch. And well because I had to include this one –

Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans...
Cry yourself to sleep on an island beside a lighthouse in Australia with A light Between Oceans…

Well, I guess that makes it 11 – well we best stop there otherwise we’d be here all night adding all our favs. Tomorrow we chose one that has both surprised and amazed us in equal measure. An imaginary location but one which we would love to go back to very very soon…….

 

 

The Shadow of the Wind – Back to 1940’s Barcelona – part two

The Shadow of the Wind – a work of art – a classic film noir that you would normally expect to see on the big screen – masterfully crafted amongst the pages of this book.

It certainly has all the makings of an epic film of the old Hollywood variety – dark smokey alleyways, crumbling buildings, young love and dark dark secrets.

MAP

Calle Santa Ana The journey starts at the bookshop on Calle Santa Ana Plaza real,  Daniel meets Clara here. He also comes across Fermin Romero de Torres. Calle Arco del Teatro Is this where the Cemetery of Books is hidden? Calle Ferran  The area in the Gothic Quarter where Daniel first saw that pen in the shop window. Iglesia Santa del Mar  In the book it’s the Santa Lucia Hospice where Daniel and Fermin hear the tale of Penelope and Julian from Penelope’s old nurse Jacinta Coronada. El Quatre Gats  where Daniel and Fermin spend a lot of their time
Calle Santa Ana
The journey starts at the bookshop on Calle Santa Ana
Plaza real,
Daniel meets Clara here. He also comes across Fermin Romero de Torres.
Calle Arco del Teatro
Is this where the Cemetery of Books is hidden?
Calle Ferran
The area in the Gothic Quarter where Daniel first saw that pen in the shop window.
Iglesia Santa del Mar
In the book it’s the Santa Lucia Hospice where Daniel and Fermin hear the tale of Penelope and Julian from Penelope’s old nurse Jacinta Coronada.
El Quatre Gats
where Daniel and Fermin spend a lot of their time

After the first part of my literary journey back in time to 1940’s Barcelona, in the trail of The Shadow of the Wind, I took a moment to sit in a small cafe, and with my coffee in one hand and my book in the other, I was back in that time, the dark wooden tables splashed with wine and the flickering candles illuminating every scene.

The eerie beauty of the Gothic Quarter
The eerie beauty of the Gothic Quarter

After a spot of lunch, I continued my journey across Barcelona via Calle Ferran and ended up walking along  Calle Jaume I and Calle de la Princesa street in the same way that Daniel would have done. It is in this area that Daniel first saw that pen in the shop window. The Montblanc Meisterstuck that provides some touching moments between Daniel and his father.

Calle de la Princesa
Calle de la Princesa 

The streets near the Church Iglesia Santa del Mar are dark , damp and mysterious but in the Shadow of the Wind, it’s the Santa Lucia Hospice where Daniel and Fermin hear the tale of Penelope and Julian from Penelope’s old nurse Jacinta Coronada.

Where Daniel goes in search of the truth on his literary trail
Where Daniel goes in search of the truth on his literary trail

The eerie but beautiful maze of streets, alleys and almost secret passageways are as spooky as they are fascinating. The imposing trees and balconies above your head try and look over your shoulder and touch your head to get your attention. I cowered my head as it started to rain and chased Daniel as he himself scurried along in his search for the truth.

The evening sky was heavy and imposing above and the shadows all around me chased me as I hurried my steps in order to make my way back around the cathedral and back out into open space where I could breathe once again

The beautiful but imposing Cathedral
The beautiful but imposing Cathedral

I took a moment then to visit Nuria’s flat and the square  – ‘a small breathing space  in the maze of streets” and stand beside the fountain as I imagined Daniel had done  so many times before me. Daniel is searching for the truth and he enlists Nuria’s help – but the more Daniel learns about Carax, the more he realizes the similarities and parallels between his own life and that of the author. Then to the cathedral where the hatter and the character of Sophie Carax first met:

A meeting of destiny
A meeting of destiny
Nuria's flat
Nuria’s flat
the breath of fresh air
the breath of fresh air

Finally coming to the end of my journey for now, I sat and enjoyed the last chapter at the cafe El Quatre Gats where he spent a lot of his time. I saw Daniel go past me as I watched the street outside the window and I saw Lain Coubert at every turn. Every flicker of light,every motion out of the corner of my eye caught my attention and was heightened by The shadow of the wind. The shadow of the wind is Barcelona and although it was a dark and eerie adventure at times, it was a literary journey that I will never forget.

The Shadow of the Wind in Barcelona – a literary journey – part one

The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind

Barcelona with its gothic streets, and the many hidden corners and shadowy arch ways are characters and moods of The Shadow of the Wind. An old forgotten book, relegated to the dusty shelves of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books…….

The book, written by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of my all time favourite Spanish novels. …..

MAP

Calle Santa Ana The journey starts at the bookshop on Calle Santa Ana Plaza real,  Daniel meets Clara here. He also comes across Fermin Romero de Torres. Calle Arco del Teatro Is this where the Cemetery of Books is hidden? Calle Ferran  The area in the Gothic Quarter where Daniel first saw that pen in the shop window. Iglesia Santa del Mar  In the book it’s the Santa Lucia Hospice where Daniel and Fermin hear the tale of Penelope and Julian from Penelope’s old nurse Jacinta Coronada. El Quatre Gats  where Daniel and Fermin spend a lot of their time
Calle Santa Ana
The journey starts at the bookshop on Calle Santa Ana
Plaza real,
Daniel meets Clara here. He also comes across Fermin Romero de Torres.
Calle Arco del Teatro
Is this where the Cemetery of Books is hidden?
Calle Ferran
The area in the Gothic Quarter where Daniel first saw that pen in the shop window.
Iglesia Santa del Mar
In the book it’s the Santa Lucia Hospice where Daniel and Fermin hear the tale of Penelope and Julian from Penelope’s old nurse Jacinta Coronada.
El Quatre Gats
where Daniel and Fermin spend a lot of their time

Daniel, who lives with his father above a book shop in Barcelona, first learns of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books as a ten year old. He is told by his father that he can choose one book from the dusty shelves. He chooses ‘ The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julian Carax. But he is not the only one to find the book interesting – as he grows up, he soon discovers that a lot of people want to know about this book and are in a hurry to do so. Daniel realises he has to find out about the life and death of Julian Carax and to try and save those he left behind…

The journey starts at the bookshop on Calle Santa Ana:

Calle Santa Ana
Calle Santa Ana

A beautifully mysterious and shadowy street  in the gothic quarter that leads on to La Rambla and the main tourist areas. However, this fact has not spoilt the eerie atmosphere you feel walking down Calle Santa Ana as I passed the people I imagined Daniel would have done as he wandered to and from the bookstore. I could clearly hear the voices from the Shadow of the Wind, whispering and singing as I walked down and looked around for the first stop on my literary journey…I was about to wander in Daniel’s footsteps but am sure I felt a whisper beside me and a presence as I did so. I hoped it was Daniel walking with me… showing me around his world..

Did Daniel live right here?
Did Daniel live right here?

Daniel lived with his father up above and he would sit here dreaming of his books and of Clara. And wondering about the mysterious author Carax whose book he found.

Speaking of Clara – wandering off the Plaza real, I visited the apartment where Daniel met her. Where he saw her there and his world was shattered, and where he first comes across Fermin Romero de Torres. The arches and the palm trees providing a nice dance of shadows on each of the windows. The square has a unique atmosphere – you feel it has so many secrets and stories to tell amongst its arches and hidden corners. I was back that night – the darkness added more depth and mystery and I saw Daniel’s feelings for Clara and his fright at his meeting with Fermin even more profound.

Clara's appartment and where Daniel meets Fermin amongst the shadowy arches
Clara’s appartment and where Daniel meets Fermin amongst the shadowy arches

Last stop on the first part of the tour was the cemetery of books itself. The arch leading to Calle Arco del Teatro was unwelcoming and dark but I wandered down it and found a myriad of surprising characters hanging around the streets – I imagined not unlike those that Daniel may have wanted to avoid. I sensed the heavy doors hiding secret tomes and histories behind them. I smelt the old damp streets and the dust of the walls soon covered my shoes. It was as if I had literally walked into the novel for there were no tourists here. Just some figure– not unlike Lain Coubert himself.

Calle Arco Del Teatro - 'more than a scar than a street'
Calle Arco Del Teatro – ‘more than a scar than a street’

There were no passers-by in this alley – I could only hear the voices of those in nearby streets. It was as if Barcelona, in this alley way at least, was muffled and forgotten. It was hard to identify the place where the cemetery of books was hidden as all doorways or memories of them were akin to faceless and unmarked gravestones. An ideal place for a cemetery of books.

Was this once the Cemetery of Books? I rather hope it still is.....
Was this once the Cemetery of Books? I rather hope it still is…..

I didn’t stay long – I felt someone was watching me and so I hurried along, my face hidden in my scarf not only to keep the dust off my face but to keep this scar of Barcelona from my mind. But the Cemetery of Books had left its mark and my literary journey was far from over….

Barcelona Book Fair -and a literary mishap

I thought I would share some more memories of the Barcelona book fair – Saint Jordi 2013. Seems like a life time ago that the sun was shining on the rose stalls and the sweet smell of flowers and books was perfuming the air.

photo-41

There were many lovely moments spent just wandering through the treelined streets of Barcelona searching for the next stop on my literary search. There were so many stalls and stands and so many books that I literally was in book heaven.  So many authors too and those I didn’t know were just as important as though I did. I got myself so excited and tried to meet as many as possible.  In fact,  the more I wandered the more I realised how many were still to see, I just felt the need to see more and more and  to try and meet everyone which was impossible really.

Kate Morton treasures
Kate Morton treasures

Every stand seemed to have a list of who was there and who was going to be there but this was quite difficult to keep track of. But having so much to look at and not knowing where all the places were properly on the map, to my shame and utter horror, I missed Kate Morton by around five minutes!  I can‘t even say that I was queuing to see someone else  – it’ s just that it was so overwhelming the whole event – plus the fact I was marching around Barcelona on one of two literary trails (limited chances whilst there and I was there on someone else’s time).

Well what can I say. I’m gutted. I’ve written about her on this blog and read all her books several times so it would have been the ultimate honour to have a signed book. Still it was fantastic to be able to buy her books in Spanish. I particularly like this one in the photo below  as it is small and hard back and its so the jacket I imagined the English version having. This is what the film would look like too in my eyes.

Kate I came so close and I’ve bought all your books again  -so now I can enter the Kate Morton world  in Spanish – to read again and to delve into that world of yours you build so imaginatively. And it’s true what they say – a good story is a good story in any language.

Funny story in all of this – I asked a rather old Catalan man  with a very thick Catalan accent ( I speak no Catalan and certainly find the accent hard to understand ) who seemed to know a lot about books and the book fair in general – he heard me talking about Kate Morton and said Si si….Morton….after a bit of a conversation – he was convinced ‘Morton’  was still there. Confused I convinced him this was not true. But he insisted – so I followed him to the nearby tent and who did I spot?

The wrong Morton! lol
The wrong Morton! lol

Only Andrew Morton – the one who wrote the books about the late Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. He’s written one about the royal women of Spain hahaha I have laughed a lot at this and, well despite my misfortune, I have a funny story to tell. Hope you enjoyed it too.  Two English speaking authors called Morton at the same event? You couldn’t make it up could you!?

Barcelona Book Fair – Saint Jordi 2013

Book day in Barcelona!
Book day in Barcelona!

It’s been quite a week on the book trail – I was invited to Barcelona for the fabulous Saint Jordi celebrations which is the famous festival of Saint George -the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day, men buy roses for women and they, in return, by books for the man. But people buy both for each other which is better I think.

Well i would rather have a book any day but a book and a rose! Well now. And that’s what the fantastic department store was doing – for every two books you bought, they gave you a free rose.. so I got books and a rose. Perfect.

Back to the festival though and the Saint Jordi festival was bigger and better than ever before. There were stalls all over the city filled to the brim with books. Hundreds of authors who were spending time signing their books and book related festivities in book shops and around the streets. Shops selling book shaped cakes…..it was book fabulousness all in one place…….book heaven infact.

St George and his dragon are painted on everything from children’s faces to cards and bookmarks, roses are sold on practically  every street corner and the whole city comes out and fill the streets.  Every publisher has their own marquee with a range of books in Catalan and Spanish and there are children’s books written about St George and the dragon which were very cute.

The dragon - how cute!
The dragon – how cute!

There was a most gorgeous scent of roses in the air everywhere you go and with the warm Barcelona sun on my back, it was a lovely day with the smell of books and roses in the air…….

roses are 'read', books should be too, Saint Jordi knows how to combine the two!
roses are ‘read’, books should be too, Saint Jordi knows how to combine the two!

The book fair….waiting to see some fabulous authors….

Dolores Redondo

Federico Moccia

Elsa Punset

Daniel Bruhl

Waiting in line to see my first author in a line of many...
Waiting in line to see my first author in a line of many…

There were many other fantabulous authors there of the English speaking world such as my absolute favourite of all time KATE MORTON!!!!!!! who readers of this blog will know  – is an author I have written about a lot since I have travelled to many different places such as Sissinghurst Castle in England thanks to her books. I also discovered Sarah Lark who writes historical fiction in Germany and Spain. I discovered so much this week and met so many amazing people, regained the fluency of my Spanish and chatted about books with people who love and write books. Book heaven.

There is so much to write about, I will come back to this in another post or two, as whilst in Barcelona I took the opportunity to go on another literary journey………

The language of books: The Alhambra Palace, Spain

As well as reading books to gain knowledge of the countries I visit and the cultures  I meet there, I have also enjoyed writing short snippets, comments and observations that I come across in books and  even magazine that I believe sums up a place or feeling at that given time.

Some I have taken directly from books I have written and others have flowed from the imagination down through the pen.

Tales of the Alhambra

From the Tales of the Alhambra, a lovely sentence describing the stunning Court of Lions in the Alhambra palace:

“The peculiar charm of this old dreamy palace, is its power of calling up vague reveries and picturings of the past……and thus clothing naked realities with the illusions of the memories”.

Even before visiting this court and the rest of the palace, this was the sentence that had made me want to go and see it for myself. The language is so lyrical and so descriptive for me that the magic of it; (the ‘illusions’ and ‘vague reveries’) was conveyed by the words and enhanced once I had stood in the court of lions, on the spot of history.

And as beautiful and captivating as the Alhambra and its courts were, I completely understood the author when he referred to the bloody history of the palace:

“How difficult is it to reconcile the ancient tale of violence and blood with the gentle and peaceful scene around?”

The book is a personal journey and one which resonated with me since I had first noticed the Alhambra whilst studying A level Spanish but had not delved into the history or stories of it. Later I would read Phillipa Gregory’s  ‘ A constant princess’ and would be able to see a different, more vivid living side to the Alhambra.

catherineofaragon

In the words of the princess Catherine of Aragon whose parents would live there:

“Who would want to leave al yanna, the garden which was the image of paradise itself, inside the walls of the most beautiful palace in Spain?

I tend to agree with both of them.

The Angel’s Game, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's dark and mysterious side
Barcelona’s dark and mysterious side

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is one of Spains’ most masterful storyteller and El juego del ángel ( The Angels’s game)  is one of my favourites of his books.

With this and others, I have discovered a side of Barcelona I would never have had I not read it. It is a stunning city at the best of times, but the magic that this book adds to Barcelona and its old town had me exploring with a heightened sense of keenness. I began to  imagine  things that my mind, over active at the best of times, had trouble to make sense of. In a word, I was intrigued – to read more and to visit Barcelona again and again.

This novel captures the gothic wonder that is Barcelona in all its entirety. It is dark, mysterious, winding and weaving its subtle plots like the streets of Barcelona itself. In fact the style of writing mimics the actual city in a way I’ve never seen before.

What is equally good is that the English translation also does a very good job of recreating the city and its mysteries.

The plot:

In an abandoned mansion in Barcelona, David Martín makes his living writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym.

His childhood was a troubled one which has led him to take refuge in the world of books.

Crouched over his desk, he spends entire nights creating fantastical and mysterious tales about Barcelona’s underworld. However, it soon becomes apparent that the stories from his imagination, Which he says the streets whisper to him, are maybe not just contained within his imagination. His house itself contains a wealth of dark mysteries itself.

One day he receives a letter from a reclusive editor  who makes him the offer of a lifetime. If he writes  a book unlike anything that has ever existed before, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more.

If you have never been to Barcelona, you will think you are there. You will still be drawn to going there for real, just to see what you can discover for yourself……

Guernica, Spain

This book was a must-read for me the moment I spotted it. Why? Well the painting and the story behind it formed the basis of many of my Spanish interpretation classes at University. We had speeches based on its history and what it portrayed, so when I eventually travelled to Madrid years later and stood face to face with the painting, it was a particular goal of mine to see the great work of art for myself. And it was more amazing than I ever could have imagined.

That feeling of amazement and wonder that I felt at the Prado museum in Madrid has never left me and so the chance to read a book which put the painting in its horrific historical context was something I jumped at.

After a slow start, the book certainly does capture the atmosphere of a remarkable region and its people during the war time. Guernica is a very well researched, epic story about a place and time memorialized by Picasso. It is understandably a sad novel but one full of hope and at times very funny and heart-warming. It is about love and loss and inner strength of a people during war time and widespread destruction. There are sprinkles of the Basque language which I found particularly interesting due to my love of languages.

The Basque region is not one that many people learn about at school or indeed in later life but it is a deeply proud and strong region that has played a vital role in Spain’s history. It has its own language and identity and its own share of political upheaval and struggles even in the modern day, but its history is perhaps one of the most fascinating.

I urge you to read this book if only to understand the painting that you all probably have seen or heard of but maybe haven’t taken notice of. Because as they say, a painting is as good as a thousand words. And this part of history has a lot to explain………